Socialists, grandmothers, Baptists, babies, domestic workers, veterans, anarchists, and Leonardo Di Caprio all rallied to save the human species from itself during the People's Climate March on Sunday, in what one of the organizers called "the largest political gathering about anything in America in at least a decade."
The "final" head count from the march's officials stood at 400,000, though there is no magic number that triggers the world leaders meeting to discuss climate change at the UN on Tuesday to actually do something about it.
For Emma Suzuki-Jones and Holly Fuchigami, two college students who had recently moved to the city from Hawaii, New York's biggest demonstration since the 2004 RNC protests was also their first.
Suzuki-Jones said that she was most concerned about rising sea levels. "It's just weird to think that a lot of places in Hawaii are going to be underwater in 50 years." We didn't have the heart to point out that her adopted home would be underwater too.
"Look at the rivers, look at the sky, look at China, look at the United States," José Escalona-Martinez said after he took his Batman mask off and laid down his "Carbon Tax" sign in Times Square. Escalona-Martinez had recently gotten out of jail after an altercation with a drunk tourist, but wanted to be back on the job for the protest.
— Christopher Robbins (@ChristRobbins) September 21, 2014
"The people, the companies who make the money of off the things that cause the bad climate? They figure they're going to make their money and by the time it's too late, they'll be dead."
Sunday's march route along 6th Avenue in the heart of Midtown passed many of the corporations and banks that protect the carbon economy, as well as the media conglomerate that gleefully systematically misinforms Americans about global warming.
While there was no overt attempt on the part of the organizers to maintain message discipline ("Fuck the police!" "Stop the oil tit!" "Fox News lies!"), the People's Climate March was careful not to name names or make demands. This was to be a positive event; also positively predictable.
— Nicolás Medina Mora (@MedinaMora) September 21, 2014
Giant screens, the kind you might use to watch the replay of a touchdown pass from your bleacher seat, showed cheerful scenes captured by an army of expensive cameras stretched out along the four-mile route. The NYPD's presence was subdued and muted, in part because of the hundreds (thousands?) of private security workers and "peace keepers" who sometimes linked arms to maintain control of the crowds.
Given the urgency of the situation—another scientific report outlining our certain doom unless immediate action is taken was released on Sunday—these measures and the money required to pursue them led some to see the event as a "Corporate PR Campaign" and embrace a series of direct actions slated to happen Monday morning under the banner Flood Wall Street.
Jean Kelly, and her friends Rose and Gwen, hadn't protested since the Vietnam War, and said they were pleased that the more radical elements weren't a part of Sunday's official activities.
"I think you have to be reasonable for people to be on your side," Gwen said. "But more power to them."
Tom Fletcher, a teacher who traveled to the People's Climate March from Durham, North Carolina, said he had only heard of Flood Wall Street a few days ago. His sign read: "Beloved Community: Yes. Capitalism: No."
"Had I known about the Flood Wall Street activities sooner, I might have been able to make arrangements to miss work and attend them," Fletcher said.
"But we need both of these things. We're talking about global warming. We need everything we can get."
Additional reporting by John Del Signore.